Just like innovation itself, an innovation program is constantly being shaped by the environment around it over time. A good innovation program absorbs new information and ideas constantly. So how do you refine it?
1. Look For Feedback
Your innovation process will likely touch an enormous range of stakeholders, from internal departments to your biggest clients. Soliciting feedback about how your business is doing in general, and how new innovations are working for these stakeholders, will help you hone your process. If, for example, a department feels it needs more of a voice in the process, you can ensure it gets one. Innovation software can assist by offering a place to share this feedback and even incorporating it into the overall process.
2. Keep Roles And Teams Flexible
While many viewpoints and ideas can be useful, some innovations need fewer hands. For example, if a department asks for new ways to handle an internal process, you probably will have a fairly short list of stakeholders. You should always have a broad list of people to consider problems, and leave the door open for volunteers and those passionate about the project. As you begin winnowing down solutions, however, those with a low stake in the process can begin to move on to other projects and approaches.
The same is true of roles. Innovation tends to bring out different forms of leadership and pioneering, and flexible roles on teams can coax innovative ideas out of even the most humble and quiet employee.
Innovation is about more than applause.
3. Take a Breath
It’s important, especially after big milestones are hit or a project begins to take on momentum, for you to step back, breathe deeply, and consider the process so far. What parts of the process went smoothly? What did you learn? How can that be applied going forward for a smoother, more effective process? The potential of a project itself can sometimes shine brighter than what you can learn from shepherding that project, but it’s no less valuable. Software that tracks your process in real-time will give you valuable data and notes to track your path.
4. Prototype And See What Works
In innovation processes, just like innovation itself, sometimes you just have to build it and get it into the field before you know what will work. No idea is unchanged when it stops being an abstraction on a whiteboard. Some aspects work far better than you could have imagined, others work in ways you didn’t realize they would, and still others may become separate ideas of their own, to be developed by other teams.
The same is true of innovation processes. Often a crowdsourced idea, for example, will encourage people to speak up about systemic improvements elsewhere or approaches they think would work better. A good process will, over time, pick these ideas up and follow them where they go, while still keeping track of the original thread.
The sign of a good innovation process is that five years after you launch it, it looks nothing like what you started with in the beginning. Whether you aim for incremental improvement or bold industry-changing approaches, a solid process is key.
Learn more: What is Process Innovation?